Conservative blogger James Taranto previously predicted that the worst possible result for the Democrats of the Alito confirmation vote was for more than 40 Democrats to vote no. Liberal activists, Taranto said, would demand to know why, if there were 40 votes against Alito's confirmation, why there were not 40 to sustain a filibuster?
It's a good question. If you are a Democratic senator, and you truly believe that Alito is a threat to Americans' constitutional rights and the separation of powers, then why wouldn't you do everything you could to keep him off the Supreme Court? A no vote is a kind of equivocation; which constituency is that vote meant to satisfy? Republican activists who are determined to give the GOP a filibuster-proof majority aren't going to spare you because you merely voted no, rather than participated in a filibuster.
On the other hand, if the Democrats knew they could not sustain a filibuster, why would its so-called leadership allow senators like Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry--the latter two obviously pandering to 2008 Democratic primary voters--to promise a filibuster they knew they could not get their colleagues to support? This merely revealed the party's weakness and ineffectual leadership. True, senators are traditionally more independent-minded than members of the House; but can anyone imagine the Republicans in the Senate allowing a farce like this to play out? The minority party must be more disciplined, not less, than the majority party.
The Democrats have once again revealed that they are not a political party to be taken seriously. How can anyone trust them to govern?